Virtual Children's Books Exhibits


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11.  Kornei Chukovskii.
Tarankanische [The Terrible Cockroach].
Sergeii Chekhonin, illustrator.
Leningrad: Raduga, 1925.

a) Detail from title page.

A cockroach is the villain of this nonsense poem, a classic of twentieth-century Russian children's literature. It tells how the animals set out to enjoy themselves picnicking, but were stopped by a cockroach who threatened them with dire consequences if they dared approach the hill. Not even the large animals were brave enough to challenge the six-legged tyrant. But he is defeated ignominiously when a sparrow hops up and swallows him down whole. During the victory celebration, the elephants stomp so hard dancing that the moon must be nailed back up in the sky.

Few translators have rendered Chukovskii's brilliant, inventive verse into English poetry. But you can find a verse translation at the end of From Two to Five, Chukovskii's fascinating and widely read book about the role of nonsense in language acquisition.